Saturday, March 25, 2017

Atheists on Facebook

Some of my best friends are ... Isn't that what we say when we are about to be critical of some group or other. We throw a hypocritical sop to those who would say that we are too unkind or too picky or something of that sort. But thinking about it, it is actually true, that some of my best friends are atheists. This is hardly surprising as atheism is very trendy these days, especially among those who consider themselves intellectuals. The famous biologist and atheist, Richard Dawkins, is one of the most influential writers today. Perhaps not quite as popular as he was a few years ago, but still a best-selling writer. Whether it is his influence or not, proselytizing  atheists are popping up everywhere. It is  reading another Atheist rant on Facebook that has given rise to to what I am writing now.  What I would like to say to those who post such things on social media is this. "So you are an atheist. You don't believe in God. You are very pleased to have discarded all those restricting superstitions. Fine! I'm happy for you. But you don't have to dis the Faith of other people."

This is what I have against some Atheists: They are so radical in their attitude to religion.  Richard Dawkins in particular, is rabid in his opposition to all religion, but especially Islam. Any right-minded person must deplore the excesses of Islamic extremists, but the overwhelming majority of Moslems are not like that. Those I know personally are good decent people, dedicated to clean living and good works, which leads me to believe that Islam is actually a force for good in the world, although I do not subscribe to its tenets. But the Crusaders have nothing on Dawkins when it comes to hating those who believe differently.

Just a note on the above: The well-worn assertion that Religion has caused all the wars of the past      ( and the present too probably) is countered in  Karen Armstrong's Fields of Blood . She maintains that wars are all fought over land and that it is not religion but agriculture that is to blame. Personally I wonder whether most conflicts are not all about resources and that leaders of governments just cynically use religion to justify the bloodshed. The crusades were probably really about the Spice Trade and the modern ones are mostly about oil.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Colonials and Colonists

A new buzzword--  Decolonisation.  Actually this word is not at all new to me, It was very popular in Zambia in the sixties and seventies. It is always evoked when people want to change names of public buildings and streets. I approve of it in this context. We don't want to be reminded by signposts and maps of many of the rather awful people who have given their names to avenues and airports. Decolonising school and University curricula is also  justified. There is probably too much emphasis on European literature and African History should be taught far more from an African point of view than it is at present. But nowadays  colonist  colonialist   colonisation. have become dirty words. A lot of bad things have been perpetrated by colonists in the past, of course, but I am afraid very often anti-colonial is used to mean  not against being taken over and exploited by foreigners, but actually simply anti-white.

I have recently read the opinion that it is important to define what a colonist is. My dictionary simply defines a colonist as somebody living in a colony, which in turn is defined as a settlement abroad controlled by the founding country.How does a colony come to be and how does somebody become a colonist. A group of people might be sent out (as some of ancestors were sent to the island of St Helena) to establish a settlement which would be a colony of their mother country. The land might be uninhabited like St Helena was, or there might have been other people already living there, but it would be land that had not previously belonged to those who were colonising it. So you might define a colonist as someone who settles on land that did not previously belong to him. An appropriator of other words.

White settlers  in many cases, simply moved onto land in various parts of Africa, built houses and farmed land.. These certainly fulfill that  definition. There are also those who have acquired land through conquest. British people have been very successful in doing this. One can  also say that white people from the Western Cape colonised most of Transkei and the Eastern  Cape. I believe that  people who are now using the term, think of a colonist as a white person who has settled on land that did not belong to him(but probably to an innocent black person) However the definition above can also apply to Zulus who in the past acquired land through conquest, and what about the numbers of  people from the Eastern Cape who have settled on land in the Western parts of this country that never belonged to them. So if you are deriding colonists and colonisation (and in fact there is good reason for deploring the exploitation that has accompanied colonisation) you ought to refine the definition and say exactly which colonists you are talking about.